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Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement (Background: Essential Texts for the Conservative Mind)

1 rating: 5.0
A book by Justin Raimondo

"When I was deciding whether or not to run for President as a Republican, I re-read Justin Raimondo's Reclaiming the American Right and it gave me hope—that the anti-interventionist, pro-liberty Old Right, which had once dominated the party, … see full wiki

Author: Justin Raimondo
Publisher: Intercollegiate Studies Institute
1 review about Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost...

A look back that's essential for looking ahead

  • Aug 17, 2008
I've wanted to read this book for a long time, and was very happy when ISI announced its republication earlier this year. Certainly worth the wait, it ended up being more than I expected. While the jury is still out, I'm inclined to agree with Scott P. Richert in the first of two "critical essays" added to this new edition that "Reclaiming..." is "well on its way to being considered a classic of American political conservatism, on the order of those works of Albert Jay Nock and John T. Flynn and Garet Garrett which are discussed herein" (p. 299).

Other authors before and since 1992, when "Reclaiming..." was first published, have told the history of the Old Right and made the case that American conservatism did not, as I put it in another review, spring fully-formed from the brows of Buckley and Burnham at a "National Review" editorial conference in 1952. Few of those other authors, though, can match the depth of Justin Raimondo's research, the apparent range of his reading, or his skill in tying it all together.

At least until we get a chance to see Bruce Ramsey's brand-new "Unsanctioned Voice - Garet Garrett, Journalist of the Old Right," "Reclaiming..." may be the definitive taxonomy of his place in the history of American conservatism. Raimondo's salvaging of this all-but-forgotten writer -- and his fascinating and important proof of the influence of Garrett on Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" -- are alone worth the price of the book.

"Reclaiming..." was first published in 1993, and wasn't updated for this new edition (except for the addition of those "critical essays"). It therefore doesn't address George W. Bush and his form of "conservatism," the war on terror and the expansion of empire both at home and abroad, or, most recently, the Ron Paul campaign and the thousands of newly-minted Revolutionaries it raised. Though that makes it obvious this book is 15 years old, you could almost claim Raimondo saw it coming. His sections on the neocons and their imperial project more than stands the test of time.

Where this book ended up surprising me (though having read some of the author's other works and having met him a few times many years ago, it probably shouldn't have), though, is that it's not only a well-researched and documented history, but also a spirited call for the intellectual heirs of the Old Right to, well, reclaim the American Right. His energetic defense of Pat Buchanan, his takedown of the myth of Rand as philosopher-sui-generis, and his feisty rejection of American Empire all deserve close reading. And as someone admittedly prone to Nockian pessimism, I found his invocation of Rothbard's driving optimism a valuable tonic.

One of Raimondo's major documentary sources, in fact, was Rothbard's then-unpublished manuscript for "The Betrayal of the American Right." Now that it too is in print, these two titles together make for great, indeed I'd argue essential, reading for today's conservatives, both newly-minted members of the Ron Paul Revolution and those weaned on Ann Coulter (if you'll pardon the imagery) and Fox News. The idea that we can ever escape our history is a profoundly Leftist one. Fortunately, the American Right has a history that not only is worth studying, but one its heirs can learn and take inspiration from.

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